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I’m a big fan of underdogs.  Give me Seabiscuit, Daniel-san, or Watts (come on, you know you had a mad crush on Eric Stoltz, too) over Goliath any day.  Or more recently, for all you baseball fans out there, the San Francisco Giants, my ‘home’ team, winning the World Series.  (Though admittedly, I use the term ‘home’ rather loosely since being from Chicago, I’m forever a Cubs fan at heart — but after 100 year losing streak, a girl sometimes takes what she can get).  Regardless, home team or not, you can count on me to root unabashedly for the unassuming, unlikely hero every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

Today, I am proud to add to this honorable list.  Allow me to introduce the one, the only — Watermelon Radish.  TA-DA!  These babies have become my newest ally intended to bulk up my arsenal for the looming entertaining season.  Serve these purty little gems along side a warm crusty baguette, good homemade butter and a sprinkle of sea salt as your ultimate appetizer.  Simple, elegant, uncanningly delicious and ready to plate and serve in a matter of minutes.  I promise you, this one’s got Underdog of the Year written all over it.  My herrrroooo.

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Zucchini Crudo

Today, I was leafing through old photos of a trip my husband (then boyfriend) and I took to Mexico back in 2003.  I remember having to justify the concept of a “beach holiday” to my fair-skinned Irishman, who couldn’t grasp the point of lying around, (literally) cooking under a devilish sun that was hotter than holy hell.  All day.  Everyday.  For seven days straight.  Looking back, I can’t blame his skepticism.  As my skin became increasingly bronzed, his only knew to become frecklier.  The constant heat exhaustion probably didn’t help either.

He did eventually find solace though.  As I take a closer look at the photos, I see the usual sunset shots, ocean shots, and finally….ceviche shots?  Why the disproportionate number of photos of ceviche?  Well, we ate ceviche at nearly every meal.  No, that’s a lie.  At every meal.  Ceviche –and icy cervezas, saved him from the heat and I’m guessing, at the time, he felt it important to duly document his Mexican heroes.

raw zucchini crudo salad

This raw zucchini crudo pays homage to those refreshing bites of summertime relief and has officially taken over the coveted title of Top Salad in our house.  Some nights, my bones are laaaa-zzzy and the thought of washing and spinning greens, in addition to whipping up yet another vinaigrette of some sort, quickly turns daunting.  And, to be honest, I get bored with the look-n-feel of your typical salad architecture and construction.  Zucchini crudo has a refreshingly new, updated floor plan, great curb appeal and is a cinch to build.  We moved in straight away and have been living deliciously since.  Like ceviche, the uber-simple citrus marinade does all the heavy lifting for you while it rests happily in the fridge.  It cures the zucchini and leaves behind a lovely chorus of infused sunny flavors and a toothsome crunch.  Zucchini season is here and my favorite way to enjoy them is RAW, RAW, RAW.  Why muck up something Mother Nature has prepared so perfectly?

Go out and eat too many.  Savor each bite.  Work on your tan (or your freckles).  I plan to do so for as long as Summer lets me.

raw zucchini crudo saladraw zucchini crudo saladraw zucchini crudo salad

RAW ZUCCHINI CRUDO
Inspired by Tyler Florence

Feel free to change up and play around with your choice of cheese and herbs.  Dollops of fresh ricotta with chervil and dill would be brilliant together.  I picked the herbs below since they’re growing like mad in our garden right now.  Plus, when fresh feta comes knocking at our door, mint is never too far behind.  Oh, and speaking of fresh feta:  French sheep’s milk feta is the way to go.  It’s so much creamier and a bit more mild than Greek or goat’s milk feta.

Music Pairing: Beach Boys, All Summer Long

Ingredients

  • 1 medium farm stand zucchini
  • 1-2 tsp good extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small lemon, juiced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • fresh feta cheese, crumbled
  • handful of fresh mint, parsley and chives, finely minced

Method

Slice zucchini into rounds as thin as you can get them with a mandolin, or slowly and carefully with a sharp knife.  Arrange on a large plate in shingle formation, overlapping zucchini rounds in one layer.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Drizzle with good olive oil and lemon juice.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

A few minutes before removing zucchini crudo from refrigerator, soak red onion slices in remaining lemon juice.  Remove chilled zucchini crudo and top with red onions, crumbled feta and herbs.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.

 

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It’s hard to complain about anything in life when you sit down for a meal involving the word, Crab and the word, Dungeness.  As much as those last-meal-before-you-die-type games wreck my fickle brain, I’d probably be able to live with myself if I answered with Dungeness Crab.  I don’t know what it is, but something about the trifecta of eating with your hands, ice-cold beer and a pint-sized mallet makes me so irrationally giddy, that I start to hum my favorite tune.  For the entire meal.

No, the entire month.  In our humble abode, we’re dare devils – no bibs required.

Through the frantic phone calls from family and friends out East, I’m acutely aware that winter is still rearing its cold, ugly head in parts.  But in our neck of the woods, spring has arrived early.  The once lanky cherry blossom trees in our front garden, purchased for $12 each and haphazardly plopped into the ground, are now thriving, strong and have nearly tripled in size.  The buds are gearing up to bloom, well ahead of schedule.  It’s a flurry of activity, with the azaleas, magnolias, hyacinth, tulips, and rhodies not far behind.  They’re all growing up so fast, which makes me one proud mama.  With spring in the air and skipping through my head, it’s no wonder I came home from the market with a big bouquet of daffodils, and an even bigger bouquet of asparagus.

Forget the Wheaties.  This is the Dinner of Champions.

Dungeness Crab and Grilled Asparagus with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette, serves 4

Music Pairing:  Queen, We Are The Champions

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tbsp drained capers
  • 3 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • toasted pinenuts
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Method

Prepare vinaigrette.  Mix shallots, lemon zest, lemon juice, capers and parsley in a small bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Brush gill pan with 1 tsp of olive oil on medium-high heat.  Grill asparagus, turning often, until just tender.  Do not overcook.

Transfer grilled asparagus to warm plate and drizzle with prepared vinaigrette.  Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and top with grated Parmesan.

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